Thursday, September 6, 2007

French Communist irony

One of France's oldest newspapers is the Communist daily L'Humanité, founded in 1904 by the great Socialist Jean Jaurès, who was celebrated because of his defense of Alfred Dreyfus. His pacifist views provoked his assassination by a nationalist student from Alsace-Lorraine, Raoul Villain, three days before the outbreak of World War I. At the end of this war, in which France emerged as a winner, pacifism was considered retrospectively as a misdeed. Villain was therefore liberated. The widow of Jaurès was even obliged to pay the court costs! In modern France, Jean Jaurès became a national hero, and streets and avenues bear his name from one end of France to the other.

L'Humanité, read by countless folk who don't belong to the French Communist party, has printed one of the few articles I've discovered in France concerning the start of the APEC conference in Sydney. I've translated the following tongue-in-cheek extract:

On this occasion, John Howard made an odd appeal on the Internet video platform YouTube. He asked protest groups to support the fundamental efforts made by the USA and Australia since their nonsigning, in common, of the Kyoto protocol. Protestors will surely respect Howard's electronic gesture and refrain from transforming the prime minister's environmental celebrations into a demonstration against a global economic order.

The banner of L'Humanité is beautifully cynical, in the time-honored spirit of the Parti communiste français. The US bomber is dropping teddy bears. No need for explanations. The journal's slogan is a splendid play on its name: In an ideal world, Humanity would not exist. For those who might not understand: If everything were fine in the world [meaning, among other things, that bombers would not be dropping explosive devices disguised as teddy bears], then there would be no need for a newspaper, defending the powerless innocents, such as L'Humanité. I'm in no way a Communist, but I agree.

Click the banner to see the English-language version of this great French daily newspaper.

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